Impact of the invasive painted bug Bagrada hilaris on physiological traits of its host Brassica oleracea var botrytis.
Bagrada hilaris is a herbivorous insect native of Asia and Africa, which has invaded southern Europe and North America where it causes major damage to cole crops. Laboratory experiments were conducted to assess how the infestation of this invasive species damages the host Brassica oleracea var botrytis, and to evaluate the interaction between plant emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and B. hilaris adults. Plant responses to insect feeding were evaluated through changes in photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, VOC emission, and visual damage on leaves. The impact of B. hilaris was compared with that of Nezara viridula, a polyphagous species distributed worldwide. Plant VOC role in host plant detection was tested with electroantennography bioassays on B. hilaris antenna. Photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were consistently reduced in plants infested with 40 B. hilaris adults for 24 h. The feeding activity of a single B. hilaris caused larger discolored spots on host leaves in comparison with N. viridula. VOC emitted by B. oleracea changed significantly in response to B. hilaris and N. viridula infestation. In particular, production of limonene was strongly reduced by the infestation of the two pentatomids, while an increase in the emission of acetic acid and 2-ethyl-1-hexanol was observed. EAG dose-response tests using the main plant VOC showed B. hilaris antennal responses to benzaldehyde, octanal, nonanal, and acetic acid, which indicates a role of these compounds in host location.